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University at Buffalo Libraries

The Poetry Collection

Case IX: Ulysses in America


71. James Joyce, Ulysses, 1934 (first authorized American edition).

[double title-page, verso:] U [recto:] JAMES | JOYCE | LYSSES [Note: The U on verso extends the height and width of the type page]

In early 1932, Bennett Cerf of Random House secured the American rights to Ulysses from Beach and, sensing that the moral landscape of the United States had changed, began planning how he could publish it. [50] The following Autumn, Ulysses was again put on trial but this time the results were favorable (item 72). Cerf boasted that he had printers working on setting Ulysses within ten minutes of hearing the verdict. [51] Because of the unusual circumstances of its publication, Ulysses never legally acquired copyright protection in America and as it had already been published in 1922 in Paris, Cerf would be unable to obtain a new copyright. Cerf was thus concerned that another publisher might take advantage of the lifting of the ban and publish Ulysses first. In order to preclude potential competitors, Cerf asked Joyce to provide him with additional material he could put into his edition. This would serve two purposes: the new material could be copyrighted in 1934 and it would distinguish the Random House Ulysses from any rival. Ideally Cerf would have liked to put in either a copy of the schema (item 43, case V) or an essay of some kind but Joyce adamantly refused to include any kind of explanatory materials in an edition of Ulysses.[52] Cerf thus had to settle for a letter from Joyce in which he explained the curious history of his novel's publication and his authorization for Cerf and the Random House edition of Ulysses. On the copyright page of the edition, the 1934 copyright applies only to Joyce's letter. [53]

In preparing their edition, Cerf and his typesetters assumed they were working from a copy of the 1927 Shakespeare and Company printing when instead they had a piratical edition that had been "published" in New York in 1929 by an enterprising publisher named Samuel Roth. This piratical edition was a forgery of the legitimate 1927 printing. Even today, some book dealers confuse Roth's edition with the Shakespeare 1927 printing, although there are a few subtle physical differences between the two. More importantly, the text is highly corrupt and contains numerous errors, some of which are quite serious. The Random House edition thus repeats these mistakes. Once it became apparent that he had based his edition on a faulty text, Cerf decided to set matters straight. For the 1940 Modern Library imprint, he had the 1934 edition rigorously proof-checked against one of the Odyssey Press printings in order to remove the most egregious errors. This new edition was still far from perfect as some mistakes from Roth's edition remained. Complicating matters further, the 1949 Random House reprint reverted back to the uncorrected 1934 text and so for many years American trade editions of Ulysses remained unreliable.

This copy is inscribed by Joyce to his son and daughter-in-law: "To | Giorgio and Helen | with thanks for | their help | Babbo | Paris | 20.i.'934."


72. United States of America v. One Book Called Ulysses, December 6, 1933.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT | Southern District of New York | [rule] | United States of America, | Libelant | v. | One Book called "Ulysses" | Random House, Inc., | Claimant | OPINION | A. 110-59 | [rule]

This is Joyce's personal copy of the typescript of Judge John M. Woolsey's famous decision that lifted the ban on Ulysses, thereby allowing for publication in America. Woolsey keenly read Ulysses and concluded that the passages that were found objectionable by the authorities were the result of Joyce's dedication to his artistic technique.

If Joyce did not attempt to be honest in developing the technique which he has adopted in Ulysses the result would be psychologically misleading and thus unfaithful to his chosen technique. Such an attitude would be artistically inexcusable. ... Furthermore, Ulysses is an amazing tour de force when one considers the success which has been in the main achieved with such a difficult objective as Joyce set for himself. As I have stated, Ulysses is not an easy book to read. It is brilliant and dull, intelligible and obscure by turns. In many places it seems to me to be disgusting, but although it contains, as I have mentioned above, many words usually considered dirty, I have not found anything that I consider to be dirt for dirt's sake. Each word of the book contributes like a bit of a mosaic to the detail of the picture which Joyce is seeking to construct for his readers. ... Ulysses may, therefore, be admitted into the United States.

Woolsey's decision was included in the Random House edition. The government filed for appeal in March 1934 and Woolsey's decision was upheld in August by the appeals court.


73. James Joyce, Ulysses, 1934 (first authorized American edition).

[double title-page, verso:] U [recto:] JAMES | JOYCE | LYSSES [Note: The U on verso extends the height and width of the type page]

The Random House Ulysses was designed by Ernst Reichl who devised the striking, and strikingly large, initial letters that can be seen in this open copy. Also, towards the bottom of page 5, we can read a particularly worrisome error that the Random House edition inherited from the flawed piratical edition of Samuel Roth. Here the text reads that Buck Mulligan "pointed his finger in friendly jest and went over the parapet, laughing to himself," rather than the more sensible "over to the parapet, laughing to himself," which is found, much to Mulligan's relief, in other editions.


74. "How to Enjoy James Joyce's Great Novel Ulysses," 1934.

HOW TO ENJOY | James Joyce's | ULYSSES | presented with the | compliments of | [publisher's device] | RANDOM HOUSE and | YOUR BOOKSELLER

With Ulysses, Cerf and Random House had a valuable commodity and they went about marketing it with considerable gusto. The print-run for their first printing, 10,200 copies, far exceeded anything Beach could manage with Shakespeare and Company. In his autobiography, Cerf writes: "Ulysses was a great best seller, partly because, I think it was one of those books that are considered smart to own and which many people buy but don't read. Perhaps many did read the last part to see the dirty words; in 1934 that sort of thing was shocking to the general public."[54] Since Joyce would not allow Cerf to reprint the schema (item 43, case V) within Ulysses, Cerf had an advertisement made which follows from the schema in some details and provides a general outline to the novel. This was published as an advertisement in the February 10, 1934 issue of the Saturday Review of Literature. It was also laid into some of the copies of the first Random House edition to help perplexed readers.